Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

First, I kind of hate this cover. But at least her head isn't cut off completely, and I can vouch for the content between the covers. 

I first read Libba Bray earlier this year when I picked up The Diviners for Jazz Age January. I was completely sucked into that big ole tome (500+ pages), and it prompted me to pick up A Great and Terrible Beauty, one of the books that's been on my TBR the longest. 

I borrowed a blurb from Goodreads because ALL the complications. 

Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. One night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma into her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. 

I found much of what I loved from The Diviners carried over into this book. There's a rollicking sense of adventure, plenty of the otherworldly, and a strong, if conflicted, heroine. There was a fair amount of brattiness, selfishness, and bitchery among the girls. That rang pretty true to me and my teenage experiences, but as an adult it was still enough to make me think, "Enough already," at times. 

Brattiness aside, I enjoyed this book and I definitely plan to continue with the series. While I'm not a big series reader, I now find myself embroiled in not one, but two of Libba Bray's fantastical concoctions, and I have a feeling I'm in good hands. 

Pub. Date: December 2003
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 0689875347 
Source: Bought it!

22 comments:

  1. Happy to hear you enjoyed this so much! Been meaning to read it for years, as my daughter loved this series so much. I'm not big on series either, and I'm sure that's part of the reason I haven't begun yet. You definitely put it clearly back on my radar!

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    1. Thanks, Debi! It was a lot of fun. More enjoyable than I expected!

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  2. I think it says a lot that you want to continue with the series even though you aren't a big series reader. :) Nice review!

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    1. Right? It was surprising, for sure!

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  3. I've been wanting to read this one! so glad to hear it is a good one - I met Ms. Bray at BEA a couple of years ago and found her to be completely charming. I imagine her books hold that as well

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    1. Aww! She seems so fun! I'm envious that you got to meet her.

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  4. I kinda fell out on this series in the second and especially the third book. I had such a fun time with the first book, but then the later ones were -- I don't know. They weren't bad; they just didn't take the story in any of the directions I'd have been interested in. :/

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    1. Hmmm, I'm glad I know to go in with moderate expectations.

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  5. I'm pretty sure you had me at "mysterious burnt out wing". Don't know if that's a part of a the story but it's definitely intriguing! I'll have to give this series a try!

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    1. LOL! It's a fairly big, twisty part of the story. I love a burned wing!

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  6. I admit I despised this book pretty much from the first, when Gemma made all sorts of ludicrous and horribly stereotypical remarks about India and Indians, including implying that the people there all eat snakes or something. There was no getting over that for me. But I admit that if I were not so judgmental, I might have seen some positives in this one ;)

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    1. I chalked that up to character stupidity. If I thought it was anything but Gemma's brattiness (and actually an author belief), I would've been OUT.

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  7. For some reason Libba Bray has never really appealed to me, although seeing that you like her books so much does make me want to try her.

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    1. She's fun. If you need a quick, involving read, this might be a good way to go. I think I liked The Diviners better, though.

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  8. I have had this book on my shelf for years and still haven’t read it. Glad someone I know and trust has :)

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    1. And I expected to not like it much! So I was surprised. Delightfully so.

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  9. Interesting. I've read this but not The Diviners. Since you've enjoyed both, I may need to add The Diviners to my TBR!

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    1. I hope you decide to try it! It's so much fun.

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  10. I've yet to read any Libba Bray, but I've always had a hankering to give it a try. Your ringing endorsements certainly don't hurt :).

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    1. Do it! Do it! #peerpressure

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  11. If you plan on continuing with the series, then that says a lot. That cover is pretty. Brattiness and bitchiness sounds interesting. As an adult, we still get that sometimes - unfortunately :(

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  12. I am very interested to see what you think of the series as a whole - I liked it, but know several people who were NOT okay with the ending. Also, I agree with you in a comment above - The Diviners is the best thing she's written to date, but this series is a whole lot of fun!

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